Special educational needs and the Daily Mail
July 22, 2010 8 Comments
At what point do we suppose the Daily Mail not only dislikes the inclusion of young people with special educational needs in schools, but doesn’t think special educational needs exist outside of the 2% once designated before the Warnock report of 1978.
The Warnock report (Baroness Warnock) for the department of education and science (DES)had been reflected in the Education Act of 1981. The most prominent feature of the report to feature in the Act was the recommendation to abolish the ten statutory categories of handicap which had encompassed special educational needs since the 1944 Education Act.
Those categories were blind, partially sighted, deaf, partially hearing, educationally subnormal, epileptic, maladjusted, physically handicapped, speech defect, and delicate, and only applied to 2% of school aged children.
The Act went on to criticise the lack in identifying solutions to children with special educational needs, and though not addressing the exact number of children who qualified, a DES circular 8/81 accepted that up to 20% of children of school attending age can be regarded as having special educational needs (p.9, Croll and Moses, Special needs in the primary school: one in five?)
What had developed with further enquiries and scientific research was that children who needed a special education made up a larger amount of the population than originally thought, when only appealing to physical disabilities and not emotional.
The argument that was to emerge, and linger in the minds of many educationalists, was whether children with special educational needs could be educated in the same setting as other children.
The Mail was one of the papers who viewed Mary Warnock with suspicion, referring to her as having a “monstrous ego” that has helped destroy our moral and social heritage, for her work on special needs, embryo research and support for euthanasia.
But, as Mike Baker in 2005, retorted:
The Daily Mail derided her as a “monstrous ego” who had established the principle that all children, however disabled, “should be taught in mainstream schools”.
Yet she has never said all children should be taught in mainstream schools. Her Committee of Inquiry, and the subsequent legislation, said that provision should be in the mainstream “wherever possible”.
Warnock negated the view of some (even many schools and school leaders) that children with special educational needs were unable to be educated. Further, it predicted the rise in children who could be identified as having special educational needs (in the immediate aftermath of the report the percentage went from 2% to 20%), which, as with many stigmas in society, was not something that didn’t exist before, but the way in which experts have defined it, and the measures with which they judge special needs, has changed.
Isolating everyone who could be identified as having special educational needs would dilute schools and build barriers between people, that wouldn’t be beneficial for anyone in the long term.
What didn’t help matters much was Warnock’s decision to make a u-turn on her report in the 70s, saying instead that more, not fewer, special schools should be set up.
The Mail in an article today report that Philippa Stobbs, a senior government advisor, on special needs, has warned that schools are ‘over-labelling’ to “cheat league tables and attract more funding”. Which if true is the acting upon a perverse incentive by a school, and should not be used to call into question the different labels of special needs themselves.
However, in an unsourced paragraph, the article suggests:
it has also been claimed that doctors, teachers and parents are too keen to pin medical labels – such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – on what might previously have been branded poor discipline
Before using a quote by Dr Gwynedd Lloyd, an education researcher at the University of Edinburgh, who said:
You can’t do a blood test to check whether you’ve got ADHD – it’s diagnosed through a behavioural checklist.
Getting out of your seat and running about is an example – half the kids in a school could qualify under that criterion.
The latter is a statement of fact; you can’t do a blood test to check for ADHD, very true, and lots of children do like running about, but this does not quash the existence of ADHD any more than smiling proves the inexistence of depression.
Yet regarding the former quote, what benefit would a doctor receive from claiming a child has ADHD rather than poor discipline.
It is hard to tell whether the Mail are really highlighting this in order to show that more children are labelled with special educational needs, or whether they are dubious about the labels themselves, since they provide no proof of schools being perversely incentivised to ‘over-label’ or any professional benefitting from doing so.